In line with the United Nation’s 90-90-90 goal to ensure that by 2020, 90 per cent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90 per cent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 90 per cent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression, the United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA) and Youth Empowerment and Development Initiative (YEDI), with support from Lagos State AIDS Control Agency (LSACA) have provided free HIV Testing and Counselling to residents of Adeniji-Adele community in Lagos Island.
The event which also had a mini-clinic for biomedical services like check-up, malaria testing and distribution of insecticidal bed nets, held at the Oba Palace Junction, Iga Idugaran, with over 200 people including many adolescents, market women and Iyaloja of Iga Idugaran Market in attendance.
According to the Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Programme Analyst, UNFPA, Dr. Esther Somefun, adolescents are most vulnerable to the HIV epidemic, noting that government must go the extra mile in creating awareness on the prevention of HIV/AIDS digitally, and providing free access to medical services to young people across the country.
Somefun stated that a zero prevalence rate could be reached if all people knew their HIV/AIDS status and abstained from the media of transmission.
She said: “In order to fully curb HIV/AIDS, there is need for effective sensitization among adolescents, because when they don’t have the right information and medical attention needed to know their status, they become more prone due to their practice of risky sexual behaviour, such as not using condoms when they have sexual intercourse, going into prostitution to earn a living, and also designing tattoos on their bodies with the use of sharp objects which can result to the spread HIV/AIDS among them.
“Since this is a digital world, we must also go digital in telling them the need to know their HIV/AIDS status, and also counsel them, and provide health friendly services for them. By doing this, people become more aware of the epidemic and have easy access to treatment, so that their quality of life is improved.
“Adolescents should also understand that abstinence is the best form of protection against HIV, but if they find it hard to abstain, they should have a mutually faithful partner and practice safe sex by using condoms.”
On her part, the Head of Programmes, YEDI, Mrs. Oluwatomisin Adeoye urged both private and government organisations not to relent in their efforts in eradicating the epidemic in Nigeria, adding that more attention should be paid to the rural communities across the country. She called for the collaboration of all stakeholders in the health sector to achieve the United Nations global strategy of 90:90:90 by 2020.
“We all need to work together as a team to have 90 per cent of the population tested, 90 per cent of those found to be positive to be placed on sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 90 per cent of those on antiretroviral drugs to have suppressed viral load by 2030,” she said. Apart from distribution of free male and female condoms and accurate Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) materials on HIV/AIDS, all those found reactive to the virus were referred for further follow-up care and treatment.